The Books of THE WALLS AROUND US

There is one thing—well, a few things… but here’s just one—that I’m often asked about The Walls Around Us, and it’s about the books mentioned within the story. The books that appear in the library of the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center. The books that Amber wheels around on her book cart to each of the young female prisoners, to see if they might like to pick a title to read today. Here’s more on how and why I chose the books that appear in the story…


Suma_WallsAroundUs_jkt_pbk_72dpi“Most girls weren’t too interested in spending voluntary time flapping the pages of some stale, old book, but there was always someone needing the escape like a gulp of fresh water in the desert. Besides, not every book in our library was old. Some were fresh faced and still had the new-paper smell, and reading a new book before anyone else got to was like getting the first hot lunch and not the murky, lukewarm depths of the middle of the line, or, worse, canned-bean cold like the last few trays.

“Some were books we shouldn’t have even had, judging by the well-thumbed sections paged down for sharing, but thinking of what some girls did under cover of a strategically draped blanket while reading a certain section of The Clan of the Cave Bear made me squeamish. The point is, every book we had could save us in a different way—only, we had to open it. We had to drop our eyes to the page and drink in the words that were there.”

—Amber, in The Walls Around Us


One of the questions I asked myself while writing The Walls Around Us was what would my crime be, if I were one of the girls locked up in Aurora Hills at thirteen or fourteen or fifteen? What might I have done to end up behind those walls?

Out of all the characters, Amber was the one I related to the most. I, too, had a stepfather I wished could have vanished from our lives, and I, too, found an escape in books and clung to them for many years as if they were a life raft. If I’d committed the crime Amber is accused of, if I’d found myself spending the rest of my teenage years locked up in Aurora Hills, I would have handled my time much the way she does: That book cart would have been my saving grace, my most precious thing.

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My books in the New York Public library… (A dream come true.)

Maybe it’s because of this that the books Amber and the other girls encounter on the book cart and in the prison library were books I encountered at some point in my life, books that made an impression on me somehow, books that mattered. Every book mentioned has some kind of personal connection or resonates to a piece of my past in some way. Clan of the Cave Bear is the book we passed around and read to pieces in junior high (corners turned down at certain passages). Same with the Sweep series when I was a fully grown adult working in a publishing company and a group of us got addicted to the delicious series about witches. I slipped in some of my current favorite authors (Libba Bray, Jacqueline Woodson, Sara Zarr) while acknowledging Sister Carrie, a book I was forced to write an essay on in an independent study my senior year of high school that ended up breaking my heart in a definitive way. Isabelle Allende is there. Sylvia Plath is there. Zora Neale Hurston is there. And how could I not mention Jane Eyre, one of my favorites as a teenager, the book I chose for my acting class final presentation? My monologue was a scene from when young Jane was locked, so cruelly, in the red room. I was a terrible actress, but I performed with great conviction.

There are also the books called out in the epigraphs. It felt fitting to begin with Margaret Atwood, because she’s where my life as a writer began: I discovered her books on my mother’s shelves when I was twelve years old, and they are what inspired me to put my own words down on the page.

In The Walls Around Us, the story in a book is sometimes all a girl may have to herself in the world, now that her freedom has been taken away. I understood this deeply when I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. I would have been the girl in Aurora Hills who gravitated toward that book cart, who read every single title in that library at least once and probably more, who found an escape route in those pages… and stayed as long as she could. Surely that’s why I write books today.


What three books would I want to be locked away with in Aurora Hills and read and reread for eternity? Hmm… Probably The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, whatever Libba Bray is writing right now (you and I know it will be genius) and, for old time’s sake, The Handmaid’s Tale. How about you?

THE WALLS AROUND US ebook $1.99 Today Only!

Walls_promo_fb_finalIf you happen to be visiting my blog on this random Wednesday, March 2…

And if you haven’t read my latest book The Walls Around Us yet, here’s your chance for a fraction of the price. Today only, the ebook is $1.99 across all platforms.

Plus, The Walls Around Us is featured today as a NOOK Daily Find! Thank you, Barnes & Noble!

Download the ebook for only $1.99 right now. Purchase links can be found here.

But if you like to hold a book in your hands, I will also tell you this: The paperback edition of The Walls Around Us comes out this month, on March 22.

You are invited to come celebrate the paperback release with me at my favorite neighborhood bookstore, McNally Jackson in New York City, with one of my favorite YA authors, Courtney Summers, on Tuesday, March 29, at 7pm! This event is free and open to the public! You can RSVP on Facebook here.

If you can’t make the event, but still want a book signed: Signed and personalized paperbacks can be pre-ordered through McNally Jackson by March 25. And I highly recommend Courtney Summers’s brilliant, searing, important All the Rage, which you can also pre-order signed and personalized if you can’t make the event.

Thank you for listening and Happy Random Wednesday!

 

What THE WALLS AROUND US Means to Me

The Walls Around UsMy new book, The Walls Around Us, was published today! I would be so thrilled and honored if you considered buying it this week from your favorite independent bookstore or ordering it through your local library—first-week sales do help authors so much, that’s the truth. But most of all, however you may get your hands on it, from a good friend, from an enemy, from an amazon, or from a Dumpster, I do hope it speaks to you somehow. I hope you like it.

This is a book that I wrote for myself, wholly and completely. I wrote it for the girl I was, back some time ago, and the person I am today. I wrote it because I needed to.

I wrote it because I reached an ugly place inside myself full of itching doubts that made me question every single idea I was having and every single line I was writing, and I wanted to free myself somehow. How ironic, then, to write a book that takes place mostly inside a prison to make yourself feel free. But it did. It shook something loose in me.

Last night, if you happened to be at my launch event at my favorite local bookstore McNally Jackson, where I was being interviewed by one of my favorite authors and people, Libba Bray—damn, am I lucky, damn—you may have heard Libba call this my “middle fingers book.” She says this because she witnessed me at the café table talking about writing whatever the hell I wanted without boundaries or censors and raising my middle fingers high to the ceiling while saying so, a funny image, yes. But also, it’s true. That’s what this book is for me.

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(Libba Bray and me at the launch of THE WALLS AROUND US on March 23 at McNally Jackson)

Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself in the face of all that doubt and so-called expectation and write the book you most want to write. Even if—especially if—you’re scared to do it.

The book you’d go out with in a flash of fire and smoke if you could.

The book that has no regrets.

The book that is as weird and wild and yourself as can be.

That’s The Walls Around Us for me.

I risked a lot—and now here I am, with it out in the world and no take-backs, and I feel good, I feel proud, I feel pretty OK.

One of the strangest things to realize is: When I gave myself permission to write simply for myself… When I told myself to go wild, go crazy, go all-out and see what happens, THIS is the book that seems to get more attention than my previous books. It was named the #1 Kids’ Indie Next Pick by the American Booksellers Association for Spring 2015! An Amazon Best YA Book of the Month for March! It has gotten five starred reviews!

???

Isn’t that some kind of life lesson, you think? That we should be honest and brave and so completely ourselves with the novels we’re putting out in the world. That we shouldn’t try to write what we think other people want us to write, what the industry is looking for, what readers supposedly want from us, what the world at large says. We should tell our own stories, with conviction. We should be fearless and risky and wild and true.

Even when we’re scared.

I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened with The Walls Around Us so far. (And stunned. And flummoxed. And thrilled. And… and… and I could go on!)

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(My publisher shared this wall of WALLS today!)

 

For more about the book

Thank you so much to all the wonderful, wonderful people who have been so very supportive of me and this book. I will not forget. I am so thankful.

In another post, once I have more photos, I will share with you how my first-ever-ever launch event with special guest Libba Bray went! (SPOILER: IT WAS AMAZING.) But for now, I will breathe. And be grateful for every last moment.

And try to be brave again with my next book.

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(At my launch event with one of the cookies my publisher surprised me with, and a pillow my mom made for me!)

 

What’s Happening with THE WALLS AROUND US

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Click this image to read a special free extended preview of the book!

I wanted to share some things. My new novel, The Walls Around Us, comes out in March, which is getting closer and closer, and if you want to get a taste of the book—and this is a good, long taste—my publisher has just released a seven-chapter extended preview of the book… and you can download it and read it right now on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo…

I was so excited to see that this week it was featured on iBooks as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2015—look for it in the “Our Picks” section…

If you’re on Goodreads, my publisher is giving away 35 copies of The Walls Around Us and you can enter the giveaway right now…

And yesterday, I was surprised by this post from my favorite local bookstore (the store I’ve been visiting since it opened, longingly browsing the shelves before I even published and wishing to one day find my books on them), McNally Jackson Bookstore, which said this about me, and I’m blushing to even type it in…

“We Declare 2015 the Year of Nova Ren Suma”

Can you believe that??

If you read to the end of that post you’ll see that McNally Jackson is hosting my launch event on March 23, the night before the book comes out, and Libba Bray will be my special guest! Please come if you’re local. Please help me celebrate.

And if you can’t make it to the event, you can pre-order The Walls Around Us from McNally Jackson and get it signed and personalized directly to you. There’s a box on that order page where you can write in how you’d like the book personalized. I’ll bring Sharpies.

I also have other events upcoming in the Hudson Valley (Oblong Books!) and Texas (The North Texas Teen Book Festival!) and possibly more coming.

Now I’m going to leave you with these amazing words about the book, from two incredible YA authors who generously spoke kind words about the book.

I am thrilled and honored by these words from two glorious authors I admire, Libba Bray and Michelle Hodkin

The Walls Around Us is a suspenseful tour-de-force. It is a ghost story of the best sort, the kind that creeps into your soul and haunts you with doubts about what you think you know and what you choose to believe. Above all, it is a thoughtful, heart-probing examination of innocence and guilt, friendship and betrayal, humanity and inhumanity, of the crimes we excuse and the prisons we create for ourselves, and the razor-wire-thin line that separates one from the other. When people ask me for my favorite authors, I always say, ‘Have you read Nova Ren Suma?’ She’s brilliant, and I would happily follow her to whatever strange and wondrous dark wood she imagines next.”
—Libba Bray, author of The Diviners and A Great and Terrible Beauty

“Fearlessly imagined and deliciously sinister, The Walls Around Us is an unmissable novel crafted by a spellbinding storyteller. Nova Ren Suma’s talent is on display in every sentence; her prose is hypnotic, luring the reader deeper and deeper into this original, shocking narrative with each artfully chosen word. Without question, this is the book of the year.”
—Michelle Hodkin, author of The Mara Dyer Trilogy

I am so honored by those words, my god.

I hope all this gets you excited to read the book! Well, I am so excited (and anxious) for the book to come out, but I’m also in that surreal place where I remember how happy I ended up being from writing it, and how much of myself I put into it, and now here it is out in the world and I can hardly believe it.

I don’t want to forget how that felt. It’s important, always, to remember, no matter how anxious you get about a book entering the world.

Don’t let me forget, okay?

The Calm Before the Who-Knows-What: 110 Days to Publication

walls arcs 400I write this to you from a quiet moment in my publishing life. It is December 5, the year 2014, and I am in the room at the rear of the café at a table beside the outlet where I can safely sit with my back against a wall. I am all alone in a room full of noisy people, which is both literal and symbolic at the same time. I write this nervously, of course, and with hope, always, about what the future might bring. My new book comes out next year, and next year is close. The pub date is March 24, to be exact, which I can see ahead on the calendar and which feels breathlessly about to happen and also at the same time safely still far away.

The moment is quiet still, because nothing has happened yet. There have been no trade reviews yet. It is too soon to do much promoting, or to weigh any reactions. I haven’t had to dress up at an event for this book yet and talk about it in front of people. Anything is possible at this point. The book comes out in 110 days.

There are 110 days to go, and the book is mine still, even though some people have been reading it and kindly telling me so on Twitter.

Today, someone tweeted me something I said a while back. I guess I said, “When I was writing The Walls Around Us, I decided to be simply and only myself.” And that’s true. I want to remember that, no matter what happens.

Everything is about to be up in the air next year. Where I’ll live. What work I’ll be doing. What will happen with my writing career. How this book will do out in the world. How that will determine everything else, including, though I’d hate to let that happen, my self worth.

I don’t know yet. I can’t know yet. We’re waiting on news about our apartment. I can’t do much to figure things out for next year because I’m about to go away and be offline for three weeks. The book I’m writing now is due next month, and it’s the last book on my contract. I don’t know what I’ll write next.

The best thing I can do for myself is have no expectations. To look ahead into the future and see a complete and total blank. When I get my hopes up, it’s dangerous. When I skew too negative, it’s far worse. When I keep myself busy, and try not to think about anything beyond next week when I’ll take the train upstate to finish my novel, it’s okay.

So let’s just be okay today.

I wanted to write to you from this moment in my life. From before.

If you, too, are on the edge of something and want to imagine someone sitting next to you in the noisy waiting room crowded with other people all going about their lives, I’m here. I’m feeling quiet. But I’m here.

p.s. I’m too tired to check my math. If it’s actually less than 110 days, don’t tell me.

More About the Cover of THE WALLS AROUND US

I am thrilled to share the gorgeous cover of my new novel, The Walls Around Us, which was revealed on Tumblr Books (the first-ever cover reveal by Tumblr!) on August 4! Here it is, and this author couldn’t be happier:

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This is a novel about killer ballerinas, a girls’ juvenile detention center, and yes, ghosts. It’s told in two voices, one still living, and one long dead. And it’s very me, in all the ways a novel can belong to a writer, so I think fans of Imaginary Girls and/or 17 & Gone are really going to like this and see how all of these books connect and feed off one another. When talking cover art with my editor, I truly had no idea what to suggest. I’m no cover designer—and I like to keep my mind open and blank for the space where the cover will one day be, so I don’t get my heart set on anything too specific.

And yet I knew I didn’t want a girls’ face on the cover. I didn’t want a photograph at all really, at least nothing too specific. I didn’t want a dirty ballet slipper or an orange jumpsuit behind bars or a coil of barbed wire. I wanted something that translated the mood and voice of the book into an image that would be striking enough to call readers closer… Not that I had any worldly idea what that might be.

When Algonquin emailed me this cover image to ask what I thought, I was stunned to delicious silence and then began smiling like a maniac. It was everything I wanted but didn’t know how to put to words. It is EXACTLY right. It speaks to the kind of writing inside the book, and to the twisty slope of the story you’ll be reading. It feels timeless to me. It feels so very evocative. It feels like a book for YA readers and for adult-fiction readers, too—which is important to me. And it will resonate even more once you’ve read the story and know why the artwork of the flowering vines was chosen.

The designer, Connie Gabbert, could not have done any better—and I am so honored and thrilled to have this cover on my book! I couldn’t love it more. Thank you, Algonquin and Connie!

Now that you see my cover, I hope this entices you to pick up the book on March 24, 2015! If you are a reviewer or media person, you should know that ARCs will be available THIS month—as in very soon, as in August—and you should get in touch with my publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, to get a hold of one.

People have been asked if I will be doing an ARC giveaway. It depends on how many ARCs I get, but yes… I am pretty sure I will be able to part with one. Stay tuned!

Hi. Want to See My New Book Cover?

The cover of my new novel The Walls Around Us was revealed today on Tumblr Books! Do you want to see this gorgeous cover design?

Oh, yes you do…

…Are you scrolling down so I’ll show you?

Well, I can’t post the cover here for a few more days… But if you go to books.tumblr.com, you will find the cover in all its glory! This beautiful cover was designed by Connie Gabbert. It’s everything I was hoping to have for this book and didn’t know how to articulate in words… and somehow Algonquin and the designer knew without me having to say. Psychic connection?? MAYBE.

If you want to know what the book is about, you can think of it as “Orange Is the New Black Swan”… and you can read a more detailed summary on my publisher’s website. The book will be published by Algonquin on March 24, 2015!